MODI’S KASHMIR OUTREACH : WILL IT SUCCEED?
On the eve of the second anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A and reorganization of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 24th June 2021, invited mainstream leaders from Jammu and Kashmir to discuss the way forward. Fourteen mainstream leaders from 8 political parties that also include 4 ex-chief ministers took part in the meeting that was held in the Prime Minister’s residence. Besides Prime Minister, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval were also present at the meeting. The meeting was the first such outreach effort after the Union government abrogated Article 370 and 35-A of the constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two union territories of Kashmir and Ladakh on 5th August 2019.
The agenda of the meeting, as revealed from the post-meeting statements of the participating leaders, was the restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, conduct of assembly election, delimitation and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits among others. All the participating political leaders were unanimous in their opinion that the meeting was a great step forward towards initiation of democratic process and restoration of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.
In the three and a half hours of meeting,the leaders were unanimous in their demands of full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, conduct of elections to restore democracy along with delimitation, return of Kashmir Pundits and restoration of peace. PM heard everyoneand appealed to all the leaders that there would be peace only when everyone works together. He also assured that the next steps in the region would be on the basis of consensus and respect for all views, that move towards democracy (i.e., elections to the Assembly and eventually statehood) and development of the region would continue apace and that the sacrifices made by the people in rooting out terrorism will not go in vain.
At the end of the meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi madean emotional speech pledging to bridge the distance between ‘dil’ (heart) of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and Dilli (dil aur Dilli ki doori). He promised that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s approach of insaniyat (humaneness), jamhooriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (the Kashmiri identity) would be the guiding principles in the governance and administration of Jammu and Kashmir.
Not with standing the bonhomie in the meeting, the challenges before the Modi govt to achieve the above objectives are many. First, although the mainstream political leaders attended the meeting, before attending the meeting, some of them including PDP supremo Mehbooba Mufti was on record saying that Article 370 must be revoked for the normalization in the Kashmir valley. Both Mufti and NC President Omar Abdullah reiterated the same demand after the J&K all party meeting. If we take into account the period of pre-abrogation days, a couple of influential political families including Muftis and Abdullahs were the real beneficiaries and they were least concerned about the welfare of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Now, after the revocation of the special status, their fiefdom is gone and that is the precise reason they want to perpetuate a temporary provision of Article 370 for their own self-interests. Modi govt must be very careful while dealing with these disgruntled families who may create roadblocks in the path of inclusive development of Jammu and Kashmir.
Secondly, before initiation of the comprehensive political process including elections at various levels, a roadmap for the resettlement of the displaced Kashmir Pundits must be done in a war footing. It is a challenging task but considering Modi’s working style of last 7 years as PM, it is not impossible to achieve. Therefore, political processes from grass root level to delimitation and resettlement must go hand in hand.
Another major challenge is to contain the terror, both homegrown and Pak-sponsored. Although many high profile terrorists have been eliminated and their infrastructures destroyed after revocation of the special status, still sporadic attacks at regular intervals indicate that they have been subdued but not wiped out and waiting for the opportune moment to create mayhem especially with a target to derail the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir. Recent terror attacks in the valley and repeated drone intrusion and attacks in the defence establishments in Jammu are cases in point.
Modi govt is following a time tested formula of carrot and stick to address some of the issues but many times it does not yield the desired results. Therefore, out of box approach is the need of the hour to address these challenges. This out of box approach is not universal in spatio-temporal context but should be situation and case specific. Those who are holding high positions in politics and administration must employ this new approach to tackle the complex issue like Jammu and Kashmir.
Prime Minister Modi has a focused vision on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. True to the tagline of governance of his govt, Sab Ka Saath, Sab ka Vikash and Sab Ka Vishwas, Modi is trying to bring all the stakeholders for their positive contributions towards the democratic growth trajectory of Jammu and Kashmir. For that Modi govt must follow a multi-pronged approach to address the above challenges. On the one hand he must engage the mainstream leaders in the democratic process, bring the disgruntled youth to the mainstream of the society shunning the path of violence and on the other hand he must deal sternly with terrorists and dismantle their support base with state of the art intelligence gathering, dissemination and swift action.
By Prof. Atanu Mohapatra
(The writer is Chairperson, Centre for Diaspora Studies, Central University of Gujarat.)